8/4/15

Hello August

I heard something recently about creativity. People who are the most creative are those who connect the most dots. It's about gathering inputs and making unique connections between them. If you want to be more creative, start paying more attention to a diverse range of inputs and start connecting dots.

This rings true for me. When I am most energized and creative, I am generally in a phase where I am doing a lot of listening and a lot of writing. The listening, in my case, usually comes from podcasts, books, speakers I am hearing live, or the thoughts of friends. The writing happens in a journal where I simply record what I'm listening to and what I think about it. The connections happen naturally, there in the journal.

This summer I have been in a low input phase, and I've noticed that my energy and creativity have suffered. My kids have been home, in and out of summer camps, and we've been on vacation, and all of that is actually rather nice. But these things have disrupted my usual routines and displaced my listening and writing time. And I'm okay with that, since it's part of the natural waxing and waning of phases of our lives. Summer is the time for vacations and kids and a slower pace. 

As we head into August and the final weeks of summer, I'm feeling conflicting urges. On the one hand, I want to stay "on vacation" for these last few weeks. On the other hand, I'm itching to get back to a higher input, higher energy phase. I've missed it.

So I went for a long walk the other day, and I listened to a podcast I've not tuned into for a while. It was an interview with Chris Bailey, a productivity expert. A few of his ideas have stuck in my mind.

First, he says that productivity is about what you accomplish, not what you produce. Just producing a lot of stuff and feeling busy does not mean you have been productive. I love that distinction.

Second, that productivity is determined by how well you mange your Time, Energy, and Attention. He went on to discuss what goes into managing each of these three legs of the productivity stool. 

I love models like that that I can ponder and add my own thoughts to. I started drawing the model in my notebook, and adding some of my own ideas to it, and I noticed how it changed my energy.

Then later that day I went on Instagram and saw the following quote, written by hand on a large poster board held by a very old man. The board read as follows:
"Some day you may be as old as I am. Please take my advice, and don't waste your short life. Invest your youthful vitality in your art. Share the best of your spirit with the world. Your body will die, but you cannot die. So, don't worry about petty things like bodies, money and possessions. They pass with the body and are meaningless. Don't worry what anyone thinks of you. Don't seek approval, except from yourself. Your art and ideas are signs of your spirit. Your beauty endures forever, as do you."
Yes. Living that way feels like the right thing to aspire to.

Thinking back on the productivity model, it seems to me that much of what we do is produce without being productive, and the result is what this quote warns us against.

I used to set an intention at the beginning of each month, and share them on this blog. I've fallen out of the habit, but would like to revive it, as I really liked that routine, and it helped to provide focus to my months. Here is my intention for August:

In August, I am setting an intention to notice when I'm "producing" without any accomplishing. Additionally, I will be increasing my inputs and writing about them--and any "dot connecting" I do--in my journal. 

I hope you have a great August, whatever your intentions are for this delicious month!

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